Wadi el Gamal as twilight falls… to the left are the jewel-like colours of the Red Sea, to the right are ancient Roman emerald mines and endless Egyptian desert. But if you’re feeling lazy, you can just sit beneath this make-shift structure and watch the sun go down.
Wadi el Gamal National Park or Wadi el-Gamaal – Hamata National Park is a national park in Egypt. It is 7,450 square kilometres (2,880 sq mi) in size, including 4,770 square kilometres (1,840 sq mi) of land and 2,100 square kilometres (810 sq mi) of marine space.
The coastal area features coral reefs with 450 species of coral and over 1200 species of fish. Approximately 17% of the marine life is native to the Red Sea. It also includes five islands, including Wadi El-Gemal Island. These islands are a breeding ground for 13 bird species, and local sea grasses are important sources of food for the endangered dugong and green turtle.
The Red Sea (also the Erythraean Sea) is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal). The Red Sea is a Global 200 ecoregion. The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift which is part of the Great Rift Valley.
The Red Sea has a surface area of roughly 438,000 km2 (169,100 mi2). It is about 2250 km (1398 mi) long and, at its widest point, 355 km (220.6 mi) wide. It has a maximum depth of 2211 m (7254 ft) in the central median trench, and an average depth of 490 m (1,608 ft). However, there are also extensive shallow shelves, noted for their marine life and corals. The sea is the habitat of over 1,000 invertebratespecies, and 200 soft and hard corals. It is the world’s northernmost tropical sea.
The earliest known exploration of the Red Sea was conducted by ancient Egyptians, as they attempted to establish commercial routes to Punt. One such expedition took place around 2500 BC, and another around 1500 BC (by Hatshepsut). Both involved long voyages down the Red Sea. Historically, scholars argued whether these trips were possible. The biblical Book of Exodus tells the tale of the Israelites‘ crossing of a body of water, which the Hebrew text calls Yam Suph (Hebrew: יַם סוּף). Yam Suph was traditionally identified as the Red Sea. Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882‒942 CE), in his Judeo-Arabic translation of the Pentateuch, identifies the crossing place of the Red Sea as Baḥar al-Qulzum, meaning the Gulf of Suez. (The story is part of the larger biblical lore about an Exodus of Israelites under Moses. Yam Suph can also been translated as Sea of Reeds.
In the 6th century BC, Darius the Great of Persia sent reconnaissance missions to the Red Sea, improving and extending navigation by locating many hazardous rocks and currents. A canal was built between the Nile and the northern end of the Red Sea at Suez. In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great sent Greek naval expeditions down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Greek navigators continued to explore and compile data on the Red Sea. Agatharchides collected information about the sea in the 2nd century BC. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (“Periplus of the Red Sea”), a Greek periplus written by an unknown author around the 1st century AD, contains a detailed description of the Red Sea’s ports and sea routes. The Periplus also describes how Hippalus first discovered the direct route from the Red Sea to India.
The Red Sea was favored for Roman trade with India starting with the reign of Augustus, when the Roman Empire gained control over the Mediterranean, Egypt, and the northern Red Sea. The route had been used by previous states but grew in the volume of traffic under the Romans. From Indian ports goods from China were introduced to the Roman world. Contact between Rome and China depended on the Red Sea, but the route was broken by the Aksumite Empire around the 3rd century AD.
Middle Ages and modern era
During the Middle Ages, the Red Sea was an important part of the spice trade route. In 1513, trying to secure that channel to Portugal, Afonso de Albuquerque laid siege to Aden but was forced to retreat. They cruised the Red Sea inside the Bab al-Mandab, as the first European fleet to have sailed these waters.
In 1798, France ordered General Napoleon to invade Egypt and take control of the Red Sea. Although he failed in his mission, the engineer Jean-Baptiste Lepère, who took part in it, revitalised the plan for a canal which had been envisaged during the reign of the Pharaohs. Several canals were built in ancient times from the Nile to the Red Sea along or near the line of the present Sweet Water Canal, but none lasted for long. The Suez Canal was opened in November 1869. At the time, the British, French, and Italians shared the trading posts. The posts were gradually dismantled following the First World War. After the Second World War, the Americans and Soviets exerted their influence whilst the volume of oil tanker traffic intensified. However, the Six Day War culminated in the closure of the Suez Canal from 1967 to 1975. Today, in spite of patrols by the major maritime fleets in the waters of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal has never recovered its supremacy over the Cape route, which is believed to be less vulnerable.